Recap of the day
End of Round 2: With eight holes still to finish and at -7 for the tournament, Rickie Fowler had a chance to reel in overnight leader Gary Woodland (-10). It didn’t happen but the Californian nudged a shot closer to hit -8 with a 67. A bigger move was made by Justin Thomas as the defending champion played his remaining 11 holes in 4-under to complete a 65 and end four back. Shane Lowry moved from -4 to -7, with three birdies in his remaining eight holes completing a 64. A total of 80 players went through to the final two rounds after finishing at Even par or better. Notables to miss the cut: Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Paul Casey and 19 of the 20 PGA club professionals.
Round 3: Playing in three-balls and using a two-tee start to get back on track after the time lost to weather, the prospect of a bunched leaderboard after 54 holes looked a surefire bet until double U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka did his thing and went into cruise control in a major. Five birdies and four pars in an outward 30 along with mistakes from elsewhere saw him build a four-shot lead until life got harder on the back nine. After hitting 13-under, he dropped shots at 14 and 15 before saving par at 16 from 10 feet. A birdie-par finish secured a two-shot lead over Adam Scott, who handed in a 65, while Jon Rahm made it 36 holes without a bogey in a 66 which thrust him up to tied third alongside Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland. Fowler couldn’t get much going in a 69 while Woodland had to settle for a 71 after finding that it’s pretty hard trying to go wire-to-wire in a major. Going into Sunday, the chasing pack is beefed up further by five major winners lying in wait at 8-under. That group includes Tiger Woods, who produced plenty more roars in a second straight 66, and defending champion Justin Thomas.
Sunday weather forecast
We’ll have plenty of sunshine again with temperatures sneaking up to 90 degrees. Winds are light.
Leaders after 54 holes
Brooks Koepka (66, 198) – Backed up yesterday’s 63 in impressive fashion and at one point it looked as if he could kick five or six clear such was his dominance. Stats so far? 1st SG: Off-The-Tee, 2nd Birdies, 5th SG: Tee-To-Green, 8th SG: Putting. Only hit 11 greens so that could be a concern for tomorrow as he chases a third win in the last seven majors.
Adam Scott (65, 200) – It’s fair to say Twitter doesn’t like what he’s doing with his putter but Scott lost strokes on the green today. By contrast, he gained over four shots tee-to-green and continues to carry the added perspective given to him by great friend Jarrod Lyle.
Jon Rahm (66, 201) – After back-to-back missed cuts in majors, Rahm now has back-to-back bogey-free rounds here and that’s given him a genuine shot. Third in GIR this week and second for Scrambling.
Rickie Fowler (69, 201) – A day when Fowler didn’t shoot himself out of it rather than grabbed the tournament by the scruff of the neck. Whether that’s enough we’ll find out tomorrow. Pelted 15 greens in regulation but lost strokes with the putter. That latter stat will have to change in R4.
Gary Woodland (71, 201) – A nervy start and a bunker-to-bunker-to-bunker triple bogey at 10 threatened to de-rail Woodland completely but he fought back well. Was six behind Koepka at one point on the back nine but cut that deficit in half.
Fate of the favourites
Dustin Johnson (72, 205) – Three back after round two, but completely fluffed his lines, missing a series of short putts. Three late birdies may have given him a squeak but with so many big names in front of him, it’s 150/1 that he wins this from seven back.
Rory McIlroy (71, 208) – Rory completed a 67 on his return this morning to post 3-under at the midpoint but needed something low in R3 to get into contention. Instead, he limped home in 71 and walked off 18 knowing that another year without a major had passed. Hit only 11 greens in regulation for the second day running.
Justin Thomas (68, 202) – Made a nice move this morning but playing 29 holes today perhaps caught up with last year’s champ as he signed off with bogey-5 at an 18th hole playing easy. That said, he’s still right in this.
Brooks Koepka (66, 198): "I played pretty well. Obviously got off to a hot start, it was nice on the front nine, played very well. And then on the back, just made a couple of loose swings, got a little long. But it was nice to kind of right the ship there, played well coming in, which is nice to go home on."
Adam Scott (65, 200): “It’s been a good couple of days for me (also shot 65 in R2). Right where I want to be. There’s a big chance for me tomorrow but there’s probably ten guys thinking the same thing.”
Jon Rahm (66, 201): After a second straight bogey-free round… “Today, to be honest, was a lot easier than yesterday. Today I hit 16 greens and only one of them was missed by more than a foot. Overall, really solid playing. Hopefully I can keep it going.”
Tiger Woods (66, 202): “It is good although it’s disappointing at the same time. I played better than my score indicates. This course, it’s very gettable.”
Stewart Cink (66, 202): “This week it’s been pretty good. I’ve hit good, smart shots out of the rough. I’m ecstatic just to be in the field.”
Francesco Molinari (68, 203) “I knew my game was ready. Just a little disappointed with the back nine today. I played well but left too many shots out there. I think there is a 6, 7, 8-under out there tomorrow.”
Matt Wallace (68, 205): “Mindblowing. My first (ace) one as a pro. So to do it in a major is really special. I enjoyed every minute out there today.”
Road to victory in the PGA
2017 Justin Thomas – R1: 44th, R2: 7th, R3: 4th
2016 Jimmy Walker – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Jason Day – R1: 3rd, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st
2014 Rory McIlroy – R1: 4th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2013 Jason Dufner – R1: 11th, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd
Notes: In the last 20 years, every winner has come from the top four so, if that repeats, we’re down to Koepka, Scott, Rahm, Fowler and Woodland. Justin Thomas was two shots in arrears after 54 holes last year while the biggest comeback in the last 20 years was performed by Martin Kaymer in 2010. He started the final round four back and eventually got it done in a play-off. The German’s story gives hope to Tiger and the others at -8.
Fate of the third-round leaders at the PGA – where did they finish?
2017 Kevin Kisner – 7th
2016 Jimmy Walker – 1st
2015 Jason Day – 1st
2014 Rory McIlroy – 1st
2013 Jim Furyk – 2nd
Notes: Being in the lead after 54 holes isn’t always the ideal position in a major and many don’t like the big target on their back. But at the PGA, five of the last seven 54-hole leaders have converted. The only two to fail in recent years were Kevin Kisner last year and Jim Furyk, who finished runner-up in 2013.
Focus On – Brooks Koepka
Koepka was one of four players (including Dustin Johnson) tied for the lead after 54 holes when capturing this year’s U.S. Open while he was T2 and just a shot back with 18 to play when winning it for the first time in 2017. This time, the focus is very much on him as the two-shot leader so how will he fare? Everything we’ve seen from him so far at this level says the outcome will be the same but did coming home in 1-over today hint at a change of script? Given that he’s won just once from 80 starts in non-majors on the PGA Tour, something clearly happens to Koepka when he pegs it up at this level. But winning three in the space of 14 months is so unusual as to arouse suspicion while, more practically, there are an awful lot of high-quality players waiting to pounce. They fall into two categories – past major winners or those with a fierce hunger for their first. He has 11 players within four and the Open champ just a further shot back. Koepka’s nature suggests he sleeps easy tonight; history and this leaderboard says he shouldn’t.
Focus On – Tiger Woods
The idea that Tiger’s season might be remembered for a bold attempt at Carnoustie before fizzling out looked to be playing out when he started this week bogey-double bogey. Woods did well to repair that early damage to shoot even-par 70 but still looked as if he might be a side-story at Bellerive this week. Even now, Tiger makes fools of those writing him off! Instead of fading away, Tiger has thrown in back-to-back rounds of 66. He’s done that twice before in majors and let’s just say they were fairly memorable – the first when he launched the Tiger era with that astonishing 12-shot win at the 1997 Masters and the second when he landed his second Open Championship at St. Andrews in 2005. When interviewed later, Woods feared that he’d be “five, maybe six” behind Koepka. The reality is just four shots and despite the stacked leaderboard, Woods goes into Sunday with a chance to win his 15th major.